BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain has reluctantly allowed humanitarian aid vessels to depart for the Greek islands where they want to deliver aid supplies to migrant camps, Spanish aid groups said Wednesday. But the groups face hefty fines if their boats venture without permission into official search and rescue areas in the Central Mediterranean.
The Spanish government had blocked the rescue boats from sailing, fearing they would anger Mediterranean countries like Italy if they roam around the ocean looking for and picking up migrants.
Italy and Malta have argued that they cannot open their ports to humanitarian rescue ships because their activities off the coast of lawless Libya have encouraged human traffickers.
After nearly four months of legal back and forth, the Aita Mari received the green light to sail to the Aegean Sea on Tuesday.
Daniel Rivas, a spokesman for the Humanitarian Rescue Service group, said the ship carries medical and sanitary supplies to the camps on the islands of Lesbos and Chios.